Nikon D3100 – 2020 Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

An entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3100 is equipped with a plethora of features and functionality for people who are planning to get into photography. Released in 2010, it includes the year’s must-have features and truly looks like a product of innovation. In fact, it’s the first Nikon DSLR that features 1920x1080 movie recording.

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Nikon D3100 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Auto Focus-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

  • 3.0 inch LCD designed with 230,000 dots
  • 1080 HD video equipped with 11 AF points and full-time AF
  • 14.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 3200
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Due to its full HD video recording capabilities, excellent autofocus system, and exceptional 14.2 MP DX CMOS sensor that ensures stunning image quality, the D3100 is undoubtedly a worthy unit to consider. So, if you’re still on the fence about this camera, make sure you stick through till the end before making your decision!

PROS

  • Stunning Image Quality
  • Extremely Easy to Use
  • Anti-Dust Technology
  • Automatic Distortion Control

CONS

  • No Weather Sealing
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Slower Than Other Models

Main Features

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve analyzed the features and specs of the D3100. It boasts an impressive feature set that includes:

Expeed 2 Processor and 14.2-Megapixel Image Sensor

This model is equipped with a 14.2 MP high-resolution sensor and an incredibly powerful Expeed 2 processor. A higher resolution sensor results in more cropping opportunities and larger prints. Nikon has achieved low ISO noise in this unit as well while maintaining high image quality standards at the same time.

Kit Lens

The D3100 is available in kit form with the AF-S DX NIKKOR f/3.5-5.6G 18-55mm VR lens that’s also included in the D5000 and D3000 kits. To compete with units from Pentax, Sony, and Olympus that are designed with in-body image-stabilization, Nikon’s kit lens is equipped with VR (Vibration Reduction) technology that compensates for camera shake. Although sharpness wide-open is average, this newer model delivers better performance than the previous, non-VR 18-55mm, and is significantly better in terms of flare.

Focusing Options

Manufactured with a Multi-CAM 1000 phase-detection autofocus sensor, this model boasts 11 focusing points. The center point is designed as a cross-type sensor. The AF sensor itself has remained unchanged, but the viewfinder point display has been updated and improved. Moreover, black marks indicated the AF point locations in the D3000, but the D3100 features much fainter markings that are illuminated with single red LEDs. This model further lacks the on-demand grid display feature from the D3000.

Lastly, it enables users to choose between manual or autofocus, but it does not feature the small AF mode dial situated in the front of the camera, similar to the one found on Nikon’s higher-end DSLRs. Instead, users can select the preferred focus with the switch on the lens.

Pros

The D3100 is an exceptional camera. But if you’re unsure about whether or not to purchase it, here are some of its advantages:

Stunning Image Quality

This unit is able to produce images of exceptional quality. Although the out-of-camera images are a bit soft at default settings, the fourteen-megapixel sensor is able to capture exceptional details in raw image capture mode. Along with an increase in pixels, the high-ISO performance has also improved drastically. The ISO range settings of 100 to 400 are almost indistinguishable from one another. A slight hint of noise appears at ISO 800, but the photos still remain incredibly clean at the setting.

Extremely Easy to Use

Weighing almost 505g, the D3100 is amazingly lightweight and compact. Thanks to its rubberized handgrip, it feels more natural and is easier to handle than other similarly-sized cameras. The innovatively designed shutter mechanism is good for a minimum of 100,000 cycles and features a novel ‘quiet’ shooting mode.

Furthermore, it comes with an incredibly easy to follow guide mode, camera manual, menu help, and a simple user interface. To put it simply, it makes the transition from a point-and-shoot unit to a DSLR extremely easy.

Anti-Dust Technology

Equipped with the same dust reduction system as the D5000 and D3000, this model has a two-pronged approach to reducing dust. The sensor is designed with an optical low pass filter which vibrates to remove dust. This is further coupled with Nikon’s ‘Airflow Control System.’ Basically, the unit’s internals is designed in such a way that enables it to control both the dust and the airflow. Once the shutter is triggered, dust particles are blown away from the sensor.

Automatic Distortion Control

The Auto Distortion Control is a very interesting feature that was first introduced in the SLRs in 2009’s D5000. This option is enabled through the Shooting menu and automatically corrects for pincushion and barrel distortion in captured images. It works with the majority of Nikon’s Nikkor G- and D-type lenses but is not compatible with Fisheye, PC, and some other lenses. The unit further features distortion correction, which can be enabled via the Retouch menu as a post-processing function.

Cons

However, the D3100 is not perfect. Some of its disadvantages include:

Geometric Distortion

While there is very little distortion at telephoto, the 18-55mm kit lens suffers from high barrel distortion at wide-angles. The lens produced almost 1% barrel distortion in wide-angle images, which is more noticeable and higher than average. When it comes to telephoto, pincushion distortion is only worth two pixels, which is negligible.

Slower Than Other Models

The D3100 is a bit slower than its predecessor and is not as fast as its competition. It turns on and shoots in almost 0.4 seconds, and focuses and shoots in good lighting in 0.4 seconds as well. Image shot-to-shot time is almost 0.6 seconds, which then increases to about 0.9 seconds for raw, making it slower than other cameras. With flash, it shoots in around 1.1 seconds. At 2.9fps, the unit also has a slow burst performance.

No Weather Sealing

The unit’s body is not designed with any environmental sealings, so you’ll have to be extremely careful to protect it from dust and water. The lack of weather sealing can further affect the durability and longevity of the unit negatively.

What is the Nikon D3100 Best For?

An excellent entry-level DSLR, this model boasts exceptional image quality in a body that’s perfected for experienced photographers, but is unintimidating for beginners. To help you decide whether the D3100 will suit your requirements, here are some of its uses:

Casual Video Shooting

Overall, the model records good quality videos, with smooth motions and incredibly low noise in low light conditions. The sound quality of the built-in microphone is ideal for casual shooting. Basic video controls are further integrated seamlessly in the design, enabling users to shoot movies in every exposure mode. Moreover, the Live View has impressively good focus, making it perfect for video shooting and framing for stills as well.

Night Photography

The unit features shutter speeds of up to thirty seconds and a Bulb mode for exposure times of virtually every length, making it perfect for night photography. An optional long-exposure noise reduction feature is also included. This function filters out hot pixels that might appear during the use of incredibly slow shutter speeds.

Sports Photography

With good ergonomics and plenty of external control, the Nikon D3100 can be used for sports photography. Its fast 1/4000s shutter speed is capable of freezing almost any sports action, while its cross sensors are highly sensitive to light, which allows it to lock faster and more accurately.

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying?

With most companies focusing on mirrorless cameras, there aren’t a lot of new DSLRs being developed and released. Since most current models only feature minor upgrades of their predecessors, it’s better to look at older units. To ensure you get the best value, here are some things you should consider before making your purchase:

Size of the Camera

If you’re a beginner and are just learning how to properly use manual settings, such as shutter speed and aperture, then it’s better to choose a unit that’s light and small. This will allow you to take out the camera more frequently, giving you more opportunities to learn and master those controls.

Screen

If you want to shoot both video and stills, make sure you select a unit that features a vari-angle screen. Since this enables users to shoot from several different angles, it’s a great way to get into vlogging. You can also flip round to the front to check to frame while vlogging at the same time.

Lens

If you’re just getting into photography, then it’s better to buy a unit with a kit lens. DSLRs usually come with two types of kits lens, one that features image stabilization and one that doesn’t. It’s advisable to choose an image-stabilized kit lens, as it allows you to capture sharper images at slower shutter speeds.

Bottom Line  

The D3100 is undoubtedly one of the best entry-level units available, boasting speedy operation, straightforward operation, and stunning image quality. In the end, it comes down to image quality, and this model performs admirably in that regard. Excellent autofocus accuracy and metering, combined with exceptional image processor and sensor performance, ensure stunning photos almost every single time. However, the slow speed and lack of weather sealing might be disappointing for some.

That said, this unit is the complete package and surprisingly well-featured for an entry-level DSLR, and at its current price, it offers excellent value for money.

People Also Ask

Choosing the right DSLR can be an extremely technical and difficult decision, especially for beginners. If you still have any doubts regarding the D3100, here are some of the most frequently asked questions that will surely help clear away any confusions:

How Long Can You Record Video on Nikon D3100?

Nikon designed the D7000, D5100, and D3100 with a rather short video recording time for one clip. Currently, the time is somewhere between ten to twenty minutes, according to the model. In regards to the D3100, you can record video for almost 20 minutes.

How Do You Change the Shutter Speed on a Nikon D3100?

Turn on the camera and roll the Mode dial until the M aligns with the indicator line. Once you active the meter, use your thumb to turn the Command dial right or left to change the shutter speed value.

What is the Best Image Quality Setting For Nikon D3100?

When set at default, the out-of-camera images are a bit soft, but the images become much sharper and capture more detail when switched to raw image capture.

Can You Charge Nikon D3100 With USB?

The charger included with the camera at the time of purchase should be used to charge the D3100. This model cannot be charged with a USB as the battery capacity exceeds the capacity of a USB to deliver the power needed to charge it.

How Long Does Nikon D3100 Battery Last?

The number of shots per charge varies with the temperature, how the unit is used, and the condition of the battery. With the single-frame release mode, the unit can capture around 550 shots per charge. This number increases to 2000 when switched to continuous release mode.